Evergreen State College's enrollment is both better and worse than expected

How can it be both? Well, that requires a bit of explanation. In September a professor at the school named Mike Paros wrote that there would be less than 300 freshmen at the school this year. I was one of the first to write about Paros’ claim and it spread quickly. Two days after that story circulated, the official Evergreen Twitter account tweeted this:

These estimates were slightly better but they were a) still estimates and b) still lower than previous years. The final figures weren’t available until 10 days after the start of the semester.

Today, the College Fix reports the number of freshmen is down from Evergreen’s own estimate but the total enrollment is a bit higher than expected.

Emily Kok, a public records officer at the school, told The College Fix via email that the number of freshmen at the Olympia, Wash.-based campus this fall semester is 309, and the total student headcount is 3,327…

The school’s official numbers for this semester, in other words, are a mixed bag compared to its predictions: Around 50 less freshmen are attending than was estimated as late as last month, but the school still has around 200-300 more students total than was predicted several weeks ago.

Reached via phone on Wednesday afternoon, campus spokeswoman Allison Anderson told The College Fix: “We’re doing a little bit better than we predicted.”

Last month when Mike Paros said the incoming class would be 300 freshmen he described that as “a fifty percent drop from two years ago.” So with an actual incoming class of 309, the decline must be pretty close to that 50% estimate after all.

It’s obviously bad news that the freshmen class is this small because it means the impact isn’t limited to people who were on campus when the trouble started. The impact is to the school’s reputation, i.e. people who might have considered the school for their future at one point but now are not.

The word from the school is always positive, no matter what happens. Evergreen has been saying for a while now that the decline in enrollment began before all of the news about protesters. That’s true but it’s also true the decline has been sharper since the protests. More significantly, it’s worth noting that Evergreen’s competition, the University of Washington, is enrolling record numbers of students at the same time Evergreen’s enrollment is declining.

Evergreen obviously hopes to hang on through the lean years until it can recover, but it seems likely there will be more declines and more budget cuts to come before that happens. The question is how long the school will tolerate that before it decides to hold President Bridges accountable.